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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Positioning for the Serve

The serve is typically not viewed as a weapon even at the highest levels of pickleball. But there are a couple of factors that can help the server be more successful in setting the tone for the rally. The first factor is placement of the serve, including depth, direction, and speed. This was discussed at length in Service Strategies and reviewed by Sarah Ansboury in Sarah Talks Serving. The second factor is the position from where the serve is hit. That is the topic for this post.

One consideration is the best position from a defensive perspective. A server should be positioned where he can play the return of serve with his forehand. Most players have a better forehand than a backhand from the baseline. When a right-hander puts this in action, he is on the far left of the service court, as illustrated by Deb Harrison in her video included in Service Motion.

Note how Deb's forehand is on the open side of her half-court. This is the strongest position to return the opponents' shot.

The second consideration is the best position from an offensive perspective. The serving position either makes serving to specific targets easier or harder. Serving from near the centerline makes it easier to serve to opponents' centerline. This is shown in a couple of screen captures from a video in Service Strategies.

This example is effective when serving to left-hander's backhand or to a right-hander who stands in the corner in order to protect his backhand. If the objective is to serve to a right-hander's backhand in this (left) court, the best angle is provided by moving to far corner to serve as shown in the second Deb Harrison photo.

There are several issues with moving to serve. First, there can be a direct conflict with the defensive positioning consideration. Serving from the centerline as shown above means that the service court must be defended with the backhand...unless the server quickly shifts to their left. 

Second, opponents know all about these angles too. If a server moves to the centerline, opponents can predict that they will be vulnerable down the middle. It is important that the serve not be predictable so a serve to the corner should be in the repertoire - even if is weaker than normal.

Remember the most important factor related to the serve when you experiment with various strategies - always get the serve in play. Any advantage gained by position is eliminated when the serve is out of play.

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